Building upon our efforts from last year supporting PROTEC17 members at the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), we co-wrote Washington State Senate Bill (SB) 5875 that would add DOL Licensing Service Representatives (LSRs) to the definition of ‘frontline workers’ under the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act.
If successful, this change would allow LSRs access to workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19-related reasons, and additionally, it would bolster the argument that LSRs deserve hazard pay for their direct service with the public throughout the pandemic.
In its first hearing on Mon., Jan. 24, PROTEC17 members and staff – including LSRs Nicole Chambers, Nathan Fox, Chanel Johnson, Pablo Nichipor, and Union Representative Alexis Young – provided compelling live testimony during the virtual meeting. In their testimony, members shared real stories about how they put themselves and their family members at risk throughout the pandemic, including several members who contacted COVID-19 while at work.
Because they are not officially classified as frontline workers under the emergency act and cannot access additional leave benefits, many DOL members were forced to use their own leave to recover from COVID-19, or to quarantine at home after exposure, causing severe financial hardship in some cases. LSRs shared that some have questioned whether or not they would even notify their employer if they had COVID-19 simply because they cannot afford to use their own leave to stay home.
“Roughly a week after returning to the office in early August, my child got COVID-19,” said PROTEC17 member and Wenatchee DOL-LSR Nathan Fox in the hearing.
“This resulted in me having to isolate myself for the protection of the community and my co-workers. Unfortunately, this caused me to use up all of my sick and vacation leave and I had to take several days of unpaid leave as well.”
“Any assistance that could be rendered by the government would only help to ease the burden that this disaster has put on us, and as essential workers, help us feel appreciated for everything that we have done,” Fox concluded in the hearing.
On Jan. 31, the bill was discussed in executive session by the Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs committee. With a narrow 5-4 vote, the bill passed through committee and will now reside in the Rules Committee until further action is taken.
PROTEC17 LSRs would like to extend a special thanks to Senator Joe Nguyen from Legislative District 34 for being the primary sponsor of this legislation, and to the Committee members for their support.We will continue to update you on the progress of SB 5875 and will let you know how you can help support our efforts to get LSRs acknowledged for their frontline work.